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Admiral Vandier, fellow heads of navy, ladies and gentlemen – good afternoon! Let me start by expressing my profound gratitude to our friend Admiral Credendino, to the Italian Navy, to the people of Italy for hosting this incredible symposium. It’s always wonderful to visit your country – and this beautiful city, which has such a rich history as a center of international finance, art, maritime commerce, and naval innovation.
We also thank Patrizia for taking care of our spouses, and sharing the wonders of Venice with them as well.
As I look around the room at the navies represented in this room, I can only begin to tell you how important these relationships are to the United States … and to me personally. I’m grateful for the opportunity to speak with so many of you in person, and I am committed to continuing the rich discussions that we have begun over the past few days.
The role of our maritime forces in the world is more important than ever. There is much at stake. For all of our nations – as has been said here this morning and the last couple of days – our safety, our security, our prosperity… are inextricably linked with sea power. The seas are the lifeblood of our economy, our national security, and our way of life. As a number of speakers have already brilliantly underscored, we all rely upon the free flow of resources, goods, and information across, under, and above the seas. We depend on unrestricted seaborne trade with unimpeded access to markets – and freedom to navigate international waters. And we all benefit from a free and open rules-based order.
Preserving this is a cause worth fighting for. And upholding this global system is a whole-of-nation – as [Royal Navy First Sea Lord] Adm. Key stated – multi-dimensional, and international effort – with maritime power playing a unique, a consequential, and a leading role.
So today, in keeping with the theme of this panel, I want to share some ways the U.S. naval services are coming together as a tri-service maritime force; to work in lock-step with you – our allies and partners – across the range of military operations to help keep the global maritime commons free, open, and secure.
At the end of 2020, the United States Navy, the United States Marine Corps, and the United States Coast Guard came together as a unified naval service to produce a combined strategy for our three maritime forces. We called it “Advantage at Sea.”
The strategy is an effort to synchronize our three services’ complementary capabilities, our roles and authorities, with those of our Allies and our partners.
In support of this maritime strategy, from July to September this year, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Mohawk deployed to the Gulf of Guinea where it worked alongside Cabo Verde, Gabon, Ghana, Equatorial Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Spain to enforce maritime laws.
Additionally, this year we assigned our first U.S. Navy vessel to the U.S. Africa Command, the Expeditionary Sea Base USS Hershel “Woody” Williams.
With embarked Sailors, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen – as well as civilians from our Military Sealift Command – Woody Williams is supporting counter-piracy, maritime security, and humanitarian and disaster relief operations … all led by our African partners.
In April, the integrated team embarked on “Woody” Williams – with support from Interpol – assisted Cabo Verde authorities in conducting a compliant boarding of a fishing vessel, seizing an estimated $350 million of illicit drugs – one of the largest trans-Atlantic drug busts in history.
And this past spring, the U.S. Navy, the Coast Guard, and the Marines were proud to take part in Exercise Obangame Express 2022, which brought together 32 nations, as well as representatives from Interpol, many U.S. government agencies, as well as international and interagency partners.
These are just a few examples that demonstrate how vital multi-domain, multi-national integration and long-term maritime partnerships are to improving regional cooperation – I should say global cooperation – maritime domain awareness, and information-sharing practices. Together, we are countering sea-based illicit activity, which occurs routinely and undermines our collective economic development as well as our national prosperity.
Maritime integration is important across the full range of military operations – from the day-to-day competition, to crisis, and, perhaps, in conflict. For instance, during Exercise Northern Viking 22, the U.S. partnered alongside France, Germany, Iceland, Norway, Portugal, and the United Kingdom to practice defense of Iceland and the protection of critical sea lines in defense of the GI-UK gap.
Earlier this year, in the Middle East, we also participated in International Maritime Exercise / Cutlass Express 2022, which involved 10 allied and partner nations to improve maritime law enforcement.
This summer we held BALTOPS ’22 with 16 nations, as well as the Rim of the Pacific exercise with 26 nations, which saw unprecedented levels of interoperability training and data sharing.
In the waters around Central and South America, we just finished the UNITAS 2022 with 19 nations – the world’s longest-running annual multinational maritime exercise – to enhance maritime cooperation.
And just last week, Portugal hosted 16 NATO nations for Dynamic Messenger 2022. This was the first full NATO operational experimentation exercise designed to specifically focus on integrating unmanned systems into the maritime domain.
So as we survey the state of trans-regional maritime cooperation, we have much to be positive about.
But we must also recognize areas that require our continued focus: information sharing, technology transfer, and balancing the many competing demands placed on our maritime forces. These are all reasons why this symposium is so important. It gives us – as Adm. Key stated – a unique opportunity to address these challenges and to come together to look for bold, innovative, and creative solutions together. We have much work to do.
This is especially important as we consider the forces that are shaping the future of the maritime environment – as sea levels are slowly rising, as ice coverage is retreating, and as the soundscape of the oceans is evolving.
Meanwhile, much of the marine world still remains unknown – both away from shores and at depth, where only a fraction of the sea floor has been geologically surveyed. This presents great opportunities for ocean-observing technologies to provide wide-area coverage and increase our collective maritime situational awareness.
Human use of the seas is also steadily growing: oil production and extractive industries are increasingly moving off shore and into deeper waters. Marine wells and pipelines for natural gas form a growing multi-billion dollar infrastructure chain. And seafloor cables continue to multiply as the demand for information grows, our economies intertwine, and e-commerce flourishes.
The growth of the world’s merchant fleet reflects the growing demand for shipped goods, with new orders for containerships at a 14-year high.
And in terms of resources, a growing global population coupled with a growing demand for seafood has placed pressure on wild fish populations … but it’s also led to the growth of aquaculture – which now surpasses wild catch in overall seafood production and give us renewed hope for a sustainable future.
In the energy sector, one of the fastest growing sectors is offshore wind. Wind power is projected to account for over half of all ocean capital expenditure by 2050, when it will provide even more energy than offshore oil. Which will also translate to a nine-fold increase in the demand for ocean space, especially near the coastlines.
In sum, over the next several decades, the oceans’ natural features are changing, and we are populating the sea surface, the water column, and the sea floor with a human-made “ocean of things” that will reach almost 100 million objects by 2050. A “blue economy” is driving technological development, infrastructure growth, and changing patterns of life at sea … all of which creates enormous implications for our maritime forces. So – as Adm. Key and [Nigerian head of navy] Adm. Gambo stated – there is so much at stake, and every one of us – every one of us – has an important role to play.
Whether it’s policing our own territorial waters, providing security for our economic exclusion zones, or deploying forces regionally or around the world – no matter what size our maritime forces might be – each of us is contributing to trans-regional security throughout the global maritime commons.
So, it is up to all of us to uphold this international, rules-based system. It is up to all of us to keep the seas open and free. And I’ll say it again: This is a cause worth fighting for. And it is one that we must fight for together.
So Enrico, again, thank you for bringing to life this meaningful, successful event and hosting us in this beautiful city.
Please convey our gratitude to the people – and to the leadership of Venice – and our deep gratitude for the hospitality my wife and I – and our team – have experienced here this week.
Venice has been called the “City of Water” and the “City of Bridges.” How fitting it is, then, that we have come together here – in common cause – to protect the seas and build bridges among our nations.
So my thanks to all of you for your friendships and partnerships. The United States Navy is very proud to sail with you, and I’m proud to stand with you.
With that, I look forward to our discussion. Thank you.
Adm. Mike Gilday
06 October 2022
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